On November 17th 2000, the Costa Rican government officially annexed Playa Rey and gave this land to Manuel Antonio National Park, adding 14 kilometers of beach and increasing the parks’ size to nearly 2000 hectares and 55000 hectare of marine. For the National Park system, the acquisition of this piece of land will play a significant part in extending the biological corridor of the Savegre, Naranjo and Portalón rivers to Manuel Antonio National Park, Playa El Rey and to other protected areas such as the Zona Protectora Cerro Nara, Parque Nacional Los Quetzales, Reserva Forestal Los Santos and the central mountain range of the country. With over $2 million of annual revenue from PNMA, a plan to develop the Playa El Rey section of the park is currently being drafted by the Chamber of Commerce of Aguirre to make this connectivity possible.
“If you look at a map of all the protected areas in the country, this would mean that eventually the two biological corridors could connect Rio Naranjo and Rio Savegre to the Caribbean, Cahuito, el Golfito and even to the protected areas in Panama,” said Milo Bekins Faries, long-time Costa Rican nationalized citizen, Forest Farmer and current chairperson of The Analog Forestry Network. “In effect Rio Naranjo is, what we hope to be, the start of an inter-oceanic biological corridor.”
The Ministry of Environment, Electricity and Telecommunications (MINAET) will play an important part in the development of the area. Although according to Bekins, MINAET as a governmental institution is under-funded, he feels that the new system of involving the communities and municipalities in the decision-making processes in ACOPAC is a very positive thing.
“Our ACOPAC (conservation areas of Pacific Central) is the largest of the 9 bioregions in the country and is so important because they deal with environmental issues in our bio-region which go from sea level to 3,000 meters above sea level,” says Bekins. “The CORAC Regional Environmental Council of ACOPAC has worked to create a system of better communication between the people and the government institutions running the show.”
The ultimate goal for all of these vertical watersheds is to be connected to the mountains (Parrita, Paquita, Savegre, Portalón and Barú, etc.) and to define the biological objectives for connecting them with the mountain ecosystems. Eventually the hope is to find other groups that are doing this in their respective areas and to set up a network of these watersheds groups to have more power to jump-start the larger system of MesoAmerican biological corridor. This social network could then function as an apparatus of corridor councils, to legally connect to the MesoAmerican biological corridor.
It will take the cooperation of many forces for something like this occur, including NGOs working on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Costa Rica to help restore their respective areas. The Naranjo River Basin Council, a new organization, is available to facilitate NGOs legalize their work in the biological corridor in order to secure funding. The Naranjo River Basin Council is in the process being a legally constituted and is formed by community-based organizations, non-profits and NGOs including the water associations, the integrated development councils of Villa Nueva, Londres and Naranjito, The Titi Conservation Alliance, ACOMA, ASOPROQUEPOS, PortaSol, and others. In addition to the legal aspect, two of their members, ACOMA and the Titi Conservation Alliance, have environmental education programs to teach kids things such as why to plant trees and the importance of creating a buffer zone between these river regions.
One future benefit of a biological corridor, Bekins hopes, is carbon conservation through the Payment for Environmental Services. “It is important that the landowners see a benefit from the 35,000 trees that have been planted along Rio Naranjo watershed” says Bekins. “If more landowners decide its worth getting on board then we have a potential carbon sink that we can quantify to determine how much carbon is in the area.
“But the main benefit of extending the biological corridor will come from the future gene pool flow of biodiversity to and from PNMA, which is an isolated “Biological Hot Spot”, along the watersheds to connect with the bio-diverse protected areas of the altitudinal forests.”
Milo Bekins Faries, long-time Costa Rican nationalized citizen is a Forest Farmer, Community Organizer, well-versed in National and International Environmental issues; and is the current chairperson of The Analog Forestry Network.